On page 64 of Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks writes, “[A]ny theory that cannot be shared in everyday conversation cannot be used to educate the public.” Indeed, hooks is a woman who practices what she preaches. One of the things that has always struck me about her work is its accessibility; the essays in Teaching to Transgress adhere to this assertion.
The book is a collection of essays about progressive education practices. Uniting the essays is a constant awareness of various forms of oppression that exist in the classroom, all analyzed through a feminist lens.
In her introduction, hooks talks about painful experiences from her child in which she mostly felt rendered invisible by the education systems in place. These experiences continued throughout her undergraduate and graduate school years; she talks about how these experiences focused on the “banking system” of education, wherein the educator is the figure of absolute authority in the classroom, existing solely to “deposit” information in receptacles: the students.
Once becoming a teacher herself, she writes:
The first paradigm that shaped my pedagogy was the idea that the classroom should be an exciting place, never boring. And if boredom should prevail, then pedagogical strategies were needed that would intervene, alter, even disrupt the atmosphere. (7) … To teach in varied communities not only our paradigms must shift but also the way we think, write, speak. The engaged voice must never be fixed and absolute but always changing, always evolving in dialogue with a world beyond itself. (11)